Don’t you just hate it when you can’t cross a river? You’ve travelled for miles with no food or water, following the sound of running water since you’re sure that this will get you to where you need to go in order to facilitate progress in your nature-based exploration mission, and suddenly you encounter a river that is simply too expansive to cross. It’s a good thing that someone has conveniently left a bunch of wooden blocks sitting motionless in the middle of the river, waiting to be assembled into a fully-connected path though, right? This is what it is like in the world of Wooden Path, anyhow, where the only thing standing between you and the other side of the river is the power and willingness of your brain to solve the tile-based puzzles that lie ahead of you. Move the tiles around in the limited space you have to connect the path; special blocks and triggers serve to switch things up along the way and provide you with one of the most challenging river-crossing experiences of your gaming career.
Throw your classic precepts of wooden tile puzzles out of the window: Wooden Path has a few snazzy improvements to introduce you to and to bend your mind further than many other puzzle games can manage. The aim is to play through the game’s increasingly difficult levels, connecting the wooden blocks that comprise an initially-broken path along the way. Simply use the mouse to slide the blocks within the movement limits (the boundaries are indicated in grid fashion by white cells overlaying the river). The interface is a refreshing change to the usual bridge-based games that dominate the genre such as Cargo Bridge and Bridgecraft; it seems that the occasional, calming path is just a little more appealing than a big, burly bridge.
If it was that simple however, the game wouldn’t even be worth reviewing in the first place. There are a few block types which tend to make a point of getting entirely in the way of your progress. In the initial stages of the game, coloured blocks will simply act as a barrier to a complete path across the water: simply move them out of the way. As things become more difficult however, you must attempt to use the coloured blocks to make blockades disappear after connecting gates with blocks of the corresponding colour. Teleportation portals also litter some levels, and these are useful for getting blocks from one portal to another that sits across the river. Golden star blocks will vanish when they are connected as well. All of the block types serve to require a slightly different approach from your mind, and when taken together make for a puzzle with a variety of avenues and solutions.
You won’t get very far simply moving blocks about randomly: Wooden Path is all about the thoughtful planning and subtle problem solving rather than brute-force shuffling until the job is done. You’ll find that breaking the entire puzzle down into its constituent sections and solving them individually will make for a much more successful strategy. The special limits also make things much harder, meaning that you’ll often have to deconstruct an almost-completed bridge in order to get the final piece where you need it. It may sound frustrating, but there’s nothing like a puzzle game with a premise so simple yet a product so challenging.
If you’re the type that tends to get quite stressed out, don’t worry: there’s a gentle soundtrack of birdsong in the background that makes you feel as if you’re right there relaxing on the river while your brain and mouse hand solve the problem. There’s a beginner and advanced set of levels, with the total number of stages reaching around fifty in total. It isn’t a ladder-based progression of levels either: once you unlock a section, all of the connection sections on the map open up for play as well so you can pick and choose between a few different puzzles if one in particular is frustrating you too much or getting you a little stuck. Overall, this game lacks any discernable flaws yet possesses all of the ingredients for a distinctive and challenging few hours of puzzling joy. Plus, if you’re always on the go, Remivision have even released a mobile version of the game.